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Help for Anxiety in Major Life Transitions: Shock

October 9th, 2012 · Anxiety, help for anxiety, life transitions, major life transitions

Major life transitions are often a very important time for individuals to seek out help with anxiety .

help for anxiety

This often includes help with the sense of shock and overwhelm that can surround such events.

 What Is Shock?

Psychological shock is not the same thing as physiological shock, but it can have a profound effect.

Shock occurs in highly emotionally laden situations in our lives.  Situations where shock comes together with major life transitions can include:

  • death of a loved one, or loss of a key relationship;
  • a traumatic event, such as accident, or serious crime, large financial loss, or sudden loss or dramatic change of employment;
  • sudden discovery of major life changing illness, or learning of the serious mental or physical illness of a loved one;
  • spiritual crisis; or,
  • suddenly feeling the emotional impact of apparently positive or neutral major life transitions (e.g., moving to a new community or country, finishing a serious program of academic study, empty nest, retirement)

What Happens in Us When We Experience Mental Shock?

Numbing.  When people confront the kind of overwhelming emotional impact that can be associated with major life transitions, it can often result in a kind of mental numbing.  We may simply find it hard to feel any of the emotional impact the event is causing for us.

Detachment.  Akin to numbing, we may find ourselves completely removed from the event, as if it had happened to someone else.

Derealization.  Even more, we may react to the overwhelming character of major life transitions by a strong sense that the whole event is just unreal.  Events can seem as if they were in a play, or happening to someone else.

Avoidance.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, we simply avoid the situation, or avoid contact with others that might bring us to acknowledge what we have been through.

Moving Beyond Shock

It’s essential that I get the help with anxiety that will enable me to move beyond the shock that can be so powerfully associated with major life transitions.  Shock is a kind of a liminal state or “between” state where I stay until I am ready to absorb and accept the emotional impact of major life transitions.  Ultimately, I need to incorporate these events and to make meaning out of them, as a part of my journey into the mystery of the self.  But the immediate need may be to acknowledge that I am in shock, which often reflects the magnitude of the impact of major life transitions.

Next post in the series: Denial.

PHOTO:  © Dphiman |

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In Fall: Help with Anxiety & Individuation, 4

September 10th, 2012 · Anxiety, help with anxiety, Individuation

This last post in my series on issues of individuation and help with anxiety in the Fall start-up season focuses on the role of imagination.

help with anxiety

Imagination has a huge role in both our anxieties and also in our hopes and aspirations.  How does it affect us as we deal with the challenges of this time of year?

Imagination Has Formidable Power

In the Fall start up, whether we are aware or not, our imagination is powerfully activated.  We can imagine the greatest possible outcomes for ourselves or our children, and we can often imagine the most threatening and scary outcomes.

Often, imagination is the power behind anxiety.  Those with powerful imaginations often experience more anxiety, because they can vividly imagine negative possibilities.

But imagination is also strongly connected to individuation.  The things that come into consciousness, through dreams, daydreams, fantasies and even the images connected with internet addiction are powerfully related to what goes on in the unconscious.  Our deepest conflicts and fears, as well as new possibilities that try to break into our lives — all are vitally connected with imagination.

Imagination: Rooted in the Unconscious

We tend to think of imagination as under conscious control, but actually our control is rather limited.  Things we imagine burst into consciousness from the unconscious all the time, if we are honest with ourselves, and do not censor.  There are connections between these manifestations and the deep processes of the unconscious self.

Whether as adult or child, if we explore what we imagine, we learn a great deal about ourselves and our journey.

Taking What We Imagine Seriously

It’s striking how deeply that which emerges from imagination can affect us.  On the unconscious level, they come out of what we’ve experienced, combined with the deep level issues with which the unconscious concerns itself.

The power of the imaginal profoundly structures our relationship to our lives.

Fantasies of Fall

This Fall start-up season is laden with emotions.  They can produce joy, strong anxiety, or may even colour our expectations and experiences with dark foreboding.

Alternately, if we can explore and understand what our imagination is putting in front of us, and where it comes from, we may understand some profound things about what is trying to emerge and live itself out in each of our individual lives.

The fantasies and anxieties of Fall surround us.  They touch on our deepest hopes, fears and aspirations.  They invite us on the journey to ourselves.

PHOTO:  AttributionSome rights reserved by Natural Step Online   VIDEO: ©   , 2009



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In Fall: Help with Anxiety & Individuation, 3

September 3rd, 2012 · Anxiety, help with anxiety, Individuation

As I’ve suggested earlier in this series, needing help with anxiety, and feeling the call of individuation may both be our experiences in the “September rush”.

help with anxiety

The busy-ness of this season can make it hard to find time to reflect on very much at all.  Yet, there may be some very profound things that we need to consider, as we try to open up the meaning of this time of year for ourselves.

Beginning September: Four Reflections

1. Life is Beckoning

We feel it all around us, as September begins.  The surge of renewed life as the Fall season commences.

We see it in our collective life, as kids go back to school, adults go back to university and college, and all manner of Fall activities start up again.  Everything urges us to jump into collective life.  But what about getting into our own, unique individual lives?

What is real life, for me?

2. The Gift Inside the Anxiety

Real anxiety is often associated with this time.  If I do need help with anxiety now, it may be important to ask — what does it mean?  What might I not want to face?  Is it tied to fear about the future, and possible mistrust of myself, or of life?  Or possibly to repressed feelings or yearnings?

Life’s energy often gets tied up in anxiety, rather than poured into those parts of our lives that need to be lived out.

What would it be like to give some unacknowledged part of yourself real, concrete life?

3. “Why be Happy When You Could be Normal?”…

…is the ironic title of Jeannette Winterson’s autobiography.  It’s an actual remark made by her adoptive mother, a woman of very narrowly conservative religious views, when Jeanette declared herself on certain key lifestyle issues.  It leads all of us ask where we have sacrificed happiness and meaning in our lives for the sake of being “normal”.

Might that need to change, for the sake of our psychological well-being?

4. The Divine Child

At this time, much gets stirred by the changes we experience.  We’re powerfully aware of the vulnerability of our children, their seeming fragility.  Yet we lose sight of youth’s resilience and adaptability, captured in the symbolism of the divine child.  Throughout the world we find the myth of a child born, seemingly fragile and “at risk”, who, despite the terrifying array of opposing forces, prevails.  So it is with the new life appearing in our children, and — dare we say it? — striving to appear in the lives of their parents.

Next post in Fall, Anxiety & Individuation Series

PHOTO:  AttributionSome rights reserved by Phil Roeder

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In Fall: Help with Anxiety & Individuation, 2

August 28th, 2012 · Anxiety, help with anxiety, Individuation

In my first post on Fall: Help with Anxiety and Individuation, I explored the connection between anxiety and our individuation at back-to-school time.  In this post, I’d like to take it further.

help with anxiety

Children, and the symbol of the child, produce an incredibly strong emotional/instinctual response in us.  And I think that there is scarcely any time of the year when the potential for that archetypal response gets more activated than in the “back to school” season.

The Symbol of the Child: Lightning Rod for Angst

Parents are both socialized and hard wired to bond with their children, and to meet their needs and protect them.  What is more, on a symbolic level, as in dreams, children often represent both potentiality, and the future.

That’s why popular culture in recent times is full of movies involving vulnerable kids in peril, like Gone Baby Gone, The Road and I am Legend, among many others.  They express a profound uncertainty that many feel  in our time about their own, and their children’s, future.

The Endless, Anxious Challenge of Kids

In our uncertain times, parents give continuously to meet children’s needs, struggling to feel confident that what they provide will be enough to enable their kids to “make it”.  Yet, at some point, we have to trust in our kids and their potential.  If we find it hard to do that, might we be projecting our own feelings of lack of trust in ourselves, and our own lives, onto them?

How is My Unlived Life with Me Now?

The symbol of the child can activate all our feelings about all our aspirations and yearnings that we have never made real.  We might then easily foist the burden of living that out onto our children: e.g.,  I always wanted to be a heart surgeon, but couldn’t… but my child will fulfil my dreams, damn it!

To be Myself in this Time

But time is a one-way door.  As Joni Mitchell expresses so well in her song “The Circle Game”, I cannot find help for anxiety in clinging to past possibilities:

Can I be open to what life brings to me, to what wants to be alive in me — now?  Here in the present, can I decide to open myself up to experiences and to possibilities in myself, to live now?

Often the journey of individuation in depth psychotherapy requires help with anxiety connected to the past… to allow real life in the present.

Next post in Fall, Anxiety & Individuation Series

PHOTO:  © PeJo29 |  MUSIC:  Joni Mitchell “The Circle Game” © Siquomb Pub. Co.

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In Fall: Help with Anxiety & Individuation, 1

August 21st, 2012 · Anxiety, help with anxiety, Individuation, individuation process

The demands of the Fall season make many feel a need for help with anxiety: the surprising thing is how this anxiety connects with our need for individuation.

help with anxiety

Often parents of school age kids feel a need at this time for help with anxiety — for many very good reasons.  But others feel restless and anxious as well, whether they have children or not.

What does Fall evoke ?  We may need help with anxiety, sure enough, but what about our individuation?

Hopes and Fears of the Past

For many children, embarking on another school year evokes hope, but also anxiety.  Returning students anticipate that the school year might be a time of personal growth and adventure, when they might find something really new and exciting in life — some new possibility.  Yet, the school year’s start may bring anxious forebodings that the year — and life — may not be like this.  Adults often feel some echo of this.

“Children Must be Realistic”

My earliest school memory is of a friend in my class who was slapped with a ruler for making 4s that were closed at the top, rather than open, as the teacher had shown us.  I think that he had intended to proudly show the teacher that he already knew how to make 4s, but instead he ended up humiliated and chastised.

For many adults, the association with school may be all about having to accommodate — to shut down parts of themselves that proved “too much” for the school environment.  Some people take that shutting down message to heart, and never recover from it.

Just how “realistic”, i.e., not ourselves, have we learnt to be?  If we need help with anxiety, could it stem from alienation from ourselves that forms a barrier to our individuation?

Onrush of Demands and Obligations

For parents, the re-commencement of school along with the whole multitude of kids’ activities can be an overwhelming burden at this time.  In my experience, many do need help with anxiety.  How do we take care of ourselves in the midst of this?  Is it even OK to think about what I might need to develop as a person?

Where are My New Beginnings?

Living through this time of year, we’re aware that kids have new beginnings, and kids have optimism about the future.  What about me?  Does my life open on any growth, any depth, any new beginnings?

The journey to individuation may call to us most strongly in Fall.

Next post in Fall, Anxiety & Individuation Series

PHOTO:  Attribution   Some rights reserved by ErikCharlton


Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy 4: Freedom

June 25th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, freedom, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxiety
Freedom is a word often heard in counselling for anxiety; it’s also a key concept in depth psychotherapy.  People who are really gripped by anxiety want nothing more than to be free of it.  We all deeply yearn for freedom; but can we really tolerate having it?

What kind of freedom would really help us deal with anxiety?

Freedom to Acknowledge Who We Are

The inability to accept our own deepest reactions, feelings and thoughts, and to give ourselves the freedom to experience them can be a major source of anxiety.  Often it stems from a deep fear that who and what we are is fundamentally unacceptable.  In the face of such fear, it often takes real courage to face and accept who we are, and what we think and feel.

As Jungian analyst Marion Woodman puts it in  The Pregnant Virgin :

Healing depends on listening with the inner ear – stopping the incessant blather, and listening.  Fear keeps us chattering – fear that wells up from the past, fear of blurting out what we really fear, fear of future repercussions.  It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now, that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.

False Self and Taboos

We may experience taboos against acknowledging our real feelings and thoughts, and even accepting who we are.  We may well find elements of ourselves (“complexes”) that deflect us powerfully from being fully honest with ourselves.  As we get closer to penetrating this layer, we may find that the very anxiety we are seeking to get rid of flares up, as a layer of defense against the truth of who and what we are.

The Freedom of Acceptance

If we can accept our deepest selves, this acceptance is often accompanied by an immense sense of freedom and relief.  As I described in my earlier post, when counselling for anxiety has brought us to the place where we feel that we are “enough’, in this way, it has largely accomplished its task.


To be free is to have real choice.  It entails awareness that I’m free to choose to be and to live in accordance with my real nature, rather than shackled by external expectations and my own inner rejection of who I really am. The heart of the work of depth psychotherapy is to get us to this place of acceptance and genuine free choice.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by mattwi1s0n

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Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 3: Enough

June 11th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxiety

Depth psychotherapy concerns self-acceptance, and counselling for anxiety emphasizes that we are “enough” to deal with the situations of our lives.  So, what does it mean to to feel that we are “enough”?  How do we gain that level of self acceptance?

The Sense of Insufficiency

To answer that question, we must probe the roots of our self-doubt and self negation. This is a step that many approaches to counselling for anxiety unfortunately often neglect.  Nonetheless, the deepest sources of self negation and self-doubt are rooted in the unconscious. They are also rooted in the unique experience that the individual has had with life.

Tree of the Self

One of the most frequent symbols of the Self in the depth psychotherapy of Jung is the tree.  It’s a fascinating and powerful symbol: the roots of the tree extend so firmly into the earth (matter), while the trunk and branches of the tree extend upward into the sky (spirit).  A tree is wonderfully, totally “enough”: it is planted and grows according to the laws of its own being — as should we.

Too Much… and Too Little

Contrary to the emotional meaning of the symbol of the tree, many of us, in our early lives, experienced that, in some area or areas of our lives, we suffered from radical lack or insufficiency. We got the sense that we were too weak, too intense, too rowdy, too unusual or too something to meet the challenges that life was putting before us. The other part of the message was that, because we were too [fill in the blank] we would have to strive absolutely heroically just to measure up — at all.  It’s this poisonous burden, counselling for anxiety knows, that stokes the fires of anxiety.

Life in Myself and Being Enough

Within us, there is a part of us that feels sufficient, and has never forgotten who and what we really are.  In most lives, there have also been special people who were outward mirrors of this inward awareness.  In serving as these precious mirrors, these people also often hold for us the power of the archetypes that reside deep in the human soul: the positive father or mother archetype; the wise old man or wise old woman archetypes; the psychopomp, or guide to the true self.  Their names are unfamiliar, but we experience their reality.

The experience of depth psychotherapy is a journey into that archetypal reality, and into connection with the reality that we are enough.

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Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 2: Flow

May 15th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxiety

Counselling for anxiety shows us that anxiety pulls us out of the flow of life, and depth psychotherapy can show us how and why this occurs.  How can we avoid this hijack, and push through our anxiousness to live life in our natural rhythm?

Anxiety Rips Us Out of the Present

Our own experience of anxiety shows that we’re not really in the present when gripped by an anxious state.  Psychologically, that state pulls us into the past or the future — and possibly both.  Counselling for anxiety shows that our struggle with anxiousness will either maroon us in the past, in past failures struggles or conflicts, or in the future, paralyzed by fear around future outcomes.

It All Relates to the Self

Anxious states pose big questions for us about either our own security or capability — or both.  The questions most often associated with anxiety refer to oneself, such as,  “Am I going to be alright?” or “Am I going to be able to do or accomplish XYZ?”  In one way or another, our anxious unease poses questions to us about the well-being and preservation of the self, and/or about personal identity.

Anxious States are Rooted in Our Complexes

From a Jungian perspective, anxious states are rooted in persistent mental objects called complexes.  These are knots or clusters of emotional energy that gather around a certain stimulus.  When a complex is activated, we are drawn back into old emotions and feelings, which keep us disconnected from the present situation.  Often, because of the way that the brain works, when we are caught up in the intense emotion produced by a complex, we do not think clearly, and we do not have a good sense of ourselves, and of our boundaries.  We get tangled up, and are unable to move through the challenge of the situation with any sort of natural flow.

Acting From Ourselves in the Now

In the process of counselling for anxiety, the primary question faced is a question that is also found in depth psychotherapy.  Put basically, that question might be stated as “How can I truly be myself in this situation, with confidence in who I am?”  A creative answer to that question can only be found when we understand in ourselves the emotional obstacles that stop us from “flowing” in the present – the complexes.  Untangling these knots, and getting to their sources, is a key goal in depth psychotherapy work.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Yogendra174



Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 1: Roots

April 30th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxietyCounselling for anxiety involves the client growing to understand the roots of anxiousness, and depth psychotherapy gives us insight into unconscious factors that lie behind our being consciously anxious.

Yearning for Return

Depth psychotherapy reminds us of that part of our psyche which yearns for a return to somewhere warm, safe and non-threatening — the womb.  Yet, here in our real lives, we’re alone, isolated, and trying to cope with challenges we all face.  With these many challenges in our individual lives, we enter anxious states.  A depth psychotherapy perspective on counselling for anxiety /  therapy for anxiety affirms that.  The question is, how can we best respond to these states?

Counselling for Anxiety and the Self

Jungian analyst James Hollis sees counselling for anxiety as engaging with

“… a free-floating disease which may be activated by nearly anything, which may light for a while on something specific, but which usually originates from the general insecurity one feels in one’s life.  The level of that insecurity… is partly a function of one’s particular history.  The more troubled one’s environment, family of origin and cultural setting, the more free-floating anxiety will be generated.”

Being anxious is also connected to situations.  Sudden shifts in realities that we have taken as certainties, for instance, can greatly increase our anxiousness.  In the film Jerry McGuire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) has the rug pulled from under his professional life, and responds with a classic film portrayal of a hyper anxious state:

Energy and Avoidance

Using Jung’s characteristic metaphor of emotion or affect as energy, we could see anxiety as energy that doesn’t know where to go, or how to flow.  It can often lead to us avoiding the situations where we’re anxious, or else, we can find ourselves “getting anxious about becoming anxious”.  But can counselling for anxiety use it as a guide for finding what is stable and lasting in the self?

Potential Benefit in Anxiety?

“How could depth psychotherapy possibly find any good in this?” a severely anxious person might wonder.  Yet, often, getting to the root of anxious states takes us to places in ourselves where we are wounded, or in conflict, where our spontaneity and energy is bound into knots, called complexes, that need to go free.  A depth psychotherapy approach to counselling for anxiety is fundamentally about getting an ally to help in understanding, accepting and having compassion for ourselves at the deepest levels, and in moving into basic trust.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Sodanie Chea ; VIDEO: © TriStar Pictures
© 2012 Brian Collinson




Jungian Therapy for Anxiety & the Overly Driven Person

January 26th, 2012 · Anxiety, driven person, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy, therapy for anxiety

Jungian therapy

It’s actually painful to be an overly driven person, as both Jungian therapy and therapy for anxiety in general recognize.  When we allow ourselves to get caught in this way, we run a great risk of chronically devaluing our inner life, and our true worth.

The overly driven person :

1. Never Relaxes or Feels Secure

The overly driven person can’t afford to lower his or her level of alertness, or level of effort, for fear of being overtaken or overcome.  She lives by the old sports maxim: “You’re Only as Good as Your Last Game”.

For the overly driven person links self-worth and specific achievements.  Now, Jungian therapy would acknowledge that we should have particular achievements of which we are proud.  But if our sense of identity is built around socially recognized achievements, then we are on very shaky ground.

2.  Fears Chaos; Continually Struggles to Maintain Control

Often the driven person strives to fend off their greatest fear: the collapse of a situation into chaos.  Often that fear is rooted in experiences of chaos in their past at some point, or in a fear of chaos inherited from the family of origin.  Therapy for anxiety knows that the response to this threat is to strive for greater control — of others, of ourselves, of the environment.

3.  Thinks in Absolutes

In Steve Jobs’ biography, I was struck by the fact that he had only two attitudes to the work of others.  He would either say “This is excellent! Amazing!”, or else he would say, “This is s–t!”.  Excrement or excellence: no in-between.  Overly driven people are often locked into perfectionism in their demands and expectations of themselves and others.  So if a thing isn’t perfect, then it’s a complete miss and worthless.

4.  Pushed by Unconscious Factors

Jungian therapy would emphasize the unconscious forces at work in the overly driven person.  They may be rooted in past traumatic experience, past emotional dynamics in the family of origin, or overidentification with an archetype.  Often, if a person is to gain freedom from  driven-ness, she must become more conscious of what’s doing the driving.  Therapy for anxiety includes healing around basic issues of self acceptance, satisfaction in what has been accomplished, and security.

 “Is It Ever Gonna Be Enough?“…  Metric – Gold Guns Girls

Often depth psychotherapy can assist greatly in untangling the knot of drivenness.

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved by ray_wilson_jr
VIDEO: © “Gold Guns Girls”  ©  2009 Metric
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)